Why this story matters:
When a young man's mysterious death was blamed, without evidence, on a Bulgarian, it unleashed a flood of anti-immigration hate speech and inspired a demonstration in Valletta over alleged crimes of foreigners living in Malta.
The government was quick to respond, highlighting the positive contributions of foreigners to the society -- in financial terms. Import of foreign labor is one of the ways the Maltese welfare state manages to stay generous without raising taxes.
The criticism of xenophobia is a welcome sign.
Yet, as a foreigner living in Malta, I find little comfort in the prime minister's comments about how comfortable it is to keep us here as long as we are productive, then get rid of us when it's our turn to be on the receiving end.
I read the prime minister's remarks shortly after filling out my Maltese tax declaration. Being an EU citizen, I'll be able to claim some pension if I live here long enough. Meanwhile, as I recently reported, immigrants from other continents will not have this privilege, despite working and paying taxes here for most of their lives.
The following article in Malta Today discusses how the pension system will evolve for the Maltese if the current economic model prove unsustainable. But what will happen if the bulk of people now classified as foreign labor decides to stay -- either because of attachment to the islands or a lack of alternatives?
Details from the story:
- On Sunday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, whose government recently unveiled Malta's first migrant integration strategy, denounced “racist and xenophobic” comments towards foreigners, following the death of Zack Meli.
- Muscat portrayed foreigners as an economic asset because they pay taxes. He stopped short of welcoming them into Malta society, saying they would not stay long enough to receive a pension.
- The expansion of the foreign labor force, according to Muscat, has allowed Malta to delay pension cuts and other reforms taking place throughout Europe.
- The Malta Chamber of Commerce said the country needs a fast-track visa system for non-EU workers to keep the country booming.